On the ski hills, on the bike trails, and thru life in general

Posts tagged ‘Verona’

Verona – Oct 13

After a few beautiful days, we woke to rain. We were supposed to do a bike tour of Verona today but, because of the rain, it was re-arranged to be a walking tour instead. We met Francesca, an accredited tour guide, at 10 a.m. and she took us on a 3-hour tour in downtown Verona. She gave us a lot of background on many of the sights that Al and I saw yesterday morning, which really helped our understanding of the city and its origins.

Venice was founded in pre-Roman times but came to prominence when the Romans implemented an organized city plan and expanded the town. The Adage River is the second largest river in Italy, after the Po, so it was already a commercial water route. It was also at the intersection of 2 main trading roads, running north-south and east-west, and it’s location at a bend in the river was easily fortified.

It became the home of some powerful families in the middle-ages, notably the della Scalas, who expanded the city walls a number of times, in the 1200s and 1400s. Remnants of the Roman and medieval walls are preserved in many areas of the city. The entire central area of the city is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Francesca not only took us to the touristy places but also to a couple of wine shops where we got to sample their wares (and buy a few items). She also recommended a favourite restaurant of hers that we ended up going to for our final group dinner. Only 7 of us were going on to Slovenia tomorrow, the others were either heading home or to other cities in Europe.

The Gavi Arch, built in the 1st century at the entrance to the city. Relocated close to the Arena in the last century.

The Gavi Arch, built in the 1st century at the entrance to the city. Relocated close to the Arena in the last century.

The original basalt paving stones under the Gavi Arch, worn down by centuries of wagon wheels.

The original basalt paving stones under the Gavi Arch, showing ruts worn by centuries of wagon wheels.

The Porta Borsari, another Roman gate from the 1st Century, with the city built up alongside it.

The Porta Borsari, another Roman gate from the 1st Century, with the city built up alongside it.

Typical downtown Verona street on a wet Tuesday. Lots of marble (almost all sidewalks are marble), few cars, easy strolling.

Typical downtown Verona street on a wet Tuesday. Lots of marble (almost all sidewalks are marble), few cars, easy strolling. Surprisingly, the marble sidewalks aren’t slippery but, with few cars, much more convenient to walk in the street.

The Piazza Urbe. Frescoed walls and the Roman/medieval tower. The bottom, alternating red and white bricks, is the original Roman tower. The rest was added in middle-ages.

The Piazza Urbe. Frescoes on building walls and the Roman/medieval tower. The bottom, alternating red and white bricks, is the original Roman tower. The rest was added in the 1400s.

The whalebone that has been hanging under the Arco della Costa for the last 1000 years. Legend says that the whale-rib will not fall down untill the moment that a person walks under it who never told a lie.

The whalebone (under the second arch) has been hanging under the Arco della Costa for the last 1000 years. Legend says that the whale-rib will not fall down until the moment that a person walks under it who never told a lie.

Juliet's balcony, in the courtyard where where Giulietta Capelletti met Romeo Montecchi.

Juliet’s balcony, in the courtyard where where Giulietta Capelletti met Romeo Montecchi.

I never made it through the throngs to fondle Juliet's breast, which legend says will bring you luck in love. Al, however, thrice married and divorced, barged through and laid on a 2-hander. I didn't get that picture unfortunately.

I never made it through the throngs to fondle Juliet’s breast, which legend says will bring you luck in love. Al, however, thrice divorced, barged through and laid on a 2-hander. I didn’t get that picture unfortunately.

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Verona – Oct. 12

Another beautiful day so Al and I went on a bike jersey hunt after breakfast. Darryl said that there was a bike store on the northeast side of the city, and showed us where on a map, so at least we had a target. We wandered over to the Castelvecchio and the Ponte Scaligero, one of the many old bridges that cross the Adage River. Unfortunately, the architectural museum was closed but we could wander around the grounds. What an impressive middle-ages fortress! The bridge, as all of them were in Verona, was destroyed by the retreating German army in 1945 but rebuilt to the same design using the recovered bricks.

The Ponta Scaligero, looking towards one of the towers of Castelvecchio.

The Ponta Scaligero, looking towards one of the towers of Castelvecchio.

Part of Castelvecchio wall.

Part of Castelvecchio wall.

Ponta Scaligero over the Adage River.

Ponte Scaligero over the Adage River.

Ponte Pietra, the oldest bridge location in Verona. Rebuilt many times since the Roman era, the 5-arch marble version was built in the 16th century. Destroyed, yet again, by retreating Germans in 1945, leaving only the leftmost arch, it was rebuilt in the 1950's.

Ponte Pietra, the oldest bridge location in Verona. Rebuilt many times since the Roman era, the 5-arch marble version was built in the 16th century. Destroyed by retreating Germans in 1945, leaving only the leftmost arch, it was rebuilt in the 1950’s.

Verona is a very pretty city, with the old city walls surrounding a large portion of the downtown. Roman ruins abound, as well as relics from the middle ages. We noticed a lot of bikes on the roads and sidewalks. We stayed on the north side of the river, just following the sidewalk and stopping lots to admire the views. One woman stopped me and said something in Italian that I didn’t understand. When she realized that she said “Verona is beautiful, yes?” I replied “Si, bella” and she smiled and walked on. Yes, Verona is beautiful indeed.

By 10:30 we needed a coffee so we stopped at a café in the university district. We noticed a sign that said something like “every hour is happy hour for university students only”. Not a bad deal! We finally got to Darryl’s supposed location of the bike store but it was nowhere to be found. The address was right but it was no longer there. Rats! At least we had a nice walk.

After lunch, our group of 13 made its way over to the entrance of the Castelvecchio to meet our biking guide, Mike, who was to lead us into the Valpolicella valley to a winery. After leading us back to his shop and fitting us on bikes, we set out riding through the centre of Verona on one of the main streets. He took us about 12 km out of the city, mostly on good cycle paths and quiet roads, to the Villa Mosconi Bertani winery.

Our wine-tasting cyclists. A good time was had by all.

Our wine-tasting cyclists. A good time was had by all.

The impressive Villa Mosconi Bertani winery estate.

The impressive Villa Mosconi Bertani winery estate.

The winery is on an old estate which has been refurbished and is a gorgeous site. The grapes had just been picked the week before so the vines were mostly bare now. Mike set us up with the winery guide, Irena, who toured us around the grounds. She was a university summer student, spoke excellent English, and was very knowledgeable and informative.

First on the agenda was a tour of the estate, showing us many of the rooms and the English garden. The place is used at least twice a week to host weddings (which must cost a fortune considering how beautiful it is and how expensive their wine is!) and also hosts music recitals, both inside and out in the garden.

The reception room. Lots of marble, frescoes ans statues.

The reception room. Lots of marble, frescoes and statues.

The tea house in the English garden.

The tea house in the English garden.

Next was a visit to one of the wine cellars where some Merlot was being aged in huge oak barrels.

Casks of Merlot aging in one of the wine cellars.

Casks of Merlot aging in one of the wine cellars.

The wine tasting was the whole point of the visit though and anticipation was high. She poured the 13 of us at least 4 oz. each of a white (€?/bottle), a Valpolicella (€22), and an Amarone (€60), all very nice wines. Gwen wasn’t a white wine drinker and gave it to me, so I had a double dose of that.

Rapt attention by a usually voluble group!

Rapt attention by a usually voluble group!

The objects of our attention. Tasty wines all.

The objects of our attention. Tasty wines all.

Then followed the purchasing of quite a few bottles, mostly of the Amarone. I actually liked the Valpolicella better, with my obviously unrefined tastes, so bought it instead. I intended to bring it all the way back home but, with 2 weeks left to go yet, there was no hope of it surviving. Sorry Brendan!

We spent more time at the winery than Mike expected and he was in a hurry to get back before dark (or maybe a date) so sped up a bit on the route back. The group kept up fine, even weighed down by wine, both internal and external. Thankfully, most of the homeward route was downhill.

Our winery bike route.

Mantua to Verona – Oct 11

Today was another travel day. After checking out at 10 a.m., we all made our way to the Mantua train station, about a 20-minute walk from the hotel. I showed my usual lack of directional abilities by leading JoAnn, Alan L. and Thelma in the totally wrong direction for a few blocks before I realized my error. They now know that me walking fast just means that I get lost faster :(. Other groups trickled in over the next little while as we had plenty of time before our 12:28 train to Verona.

Darryl made the train reservations back in Canada so he picked up all the tickets and divvied them out to everybody. The ride, taking about an hour, was comfortable and we even broke open a couple of bottles of wine to make the journey even more enjoyable. The conductor just shrugged. I guess having a wine and cheese picnic on public transport is normal, with tourists anyway.

It was another 20-minute walk to our hotel, the Hotel Verona, a nice modern hotel in the downtown. Our room not only had another big towel warmer but we had 2 balconies! This is important when you have clothes that not only need washing but drying. While we were unpacking, a horrendous roar came from the street. Apparently, they were having a rally car race or exhibition, because about a dozen of the little roaring beasts drove past. After the noise of last night, I wasn’t looking forward to another night of street racket but they faded into the distance and weren’t heard from again.

Al and I went for a walk to check out the immediate area. The arena is impressive, as are the extensive city wall fortifications from Roman and medieval times. Even though the temperature was 21C, Al and I were the only people wearing shorts and sandals. Maybe the Italians considered this to be cold? We finally saw one other person wearing shorts in the distance but it turned out to be Doug :/. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a nearby sidewalk patio for a beer and slice of pizza and bought a bottle of wine for later. You never know when you will need a bottle of wine.

Our first view of the arena, taken from the vantage of atop the city fortifications.

Our first view of the arena, taken from the vantage of atop the city fortifications.

Part of the arena walls. It is still used for concerts, operas, etc.

Part of the arena walls. It is still used for concerts, operas, etc.

Later that evening, 8 of us went for supper at Ristorante Greppia, located in an alley near Juliet’s house (and famous balcony). It was a lovely, warm night so we ate outside in the alley, as usual shuffling their tables and chairs to accommodate the size of our group. The atmosphere, the service, the food, the wine and the company all were superb – this is a great restaurant! Being Italy, there was no problem finding a gelateria on the way home for our preferred desert fix 🙂

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